Saturday, March 18, 2006


Higher Learning

Via Sydney Indymedia comes another example of 'free speech' (for some).

US National Security Advisor, Condoleeza Rice was visiting Australia last week. Part of her tour was a speaking engagement at Sydney University.

We'll have none of that, said some students:
By 1pm on Thursday, an initial 40 students had gathered outside the Con, already cordoned off by police. Rather than the usual mix of musos and academics, the campus was instead overrun by riot police, horses, and dog squads. Numbers swelled as protestors were joined by Con students, kicked off their campus to make way for Rice.

Protestors linked arms, chanted anti-war slogans, and peacefully made it known that the uni was a student space, not one for Rice and her war-mongering agenda.
Violence and hilarity stupidity ensued.
Things heated up when Piers Akerman, from the *Daily Telegraph*, attempted to break his way through the student line, despite the fact that many other attendants had managed to enter the Con by simply walking around the protestor's picket line. What was reported by the mainstream media as students "pushing and jostling" Akerman was in fact a case of Akerman himself using every pound to push and jostle through the students, trampling one protestor in the process.

This was the excuse the police needed. They surged into protest, knocking over students, and forcing them back by 20 metres. A peaceful assembly was thus turned into a violent and intimidating police attack. Several students were reportedly punched by officers, and one female student reported being sexually harassed. 6 students were arrested, including two students from the Con, one of whom was on crutches at the protest, and the other who showed her dissent simply by dancing. How either of them was seriously meant to have 'hindered police', the offence they and the others have been charged with, appears uncertain.
Naturally it was all the Police's fault (as always) and the protesters (as always) acted peacefully.

What astonishes me, is the headline of the post: "Condoleeza Rice, Sydney university and the silencing of dissent".

The 40 or so protesters, feel they were denied their freedom of speech, by campus security and police.

Never mind that their intention was to silence Condoleeza Rice from addressing the no doubt many more who came to listen. That's not important. When students again tried to censor her, Rice appeared to handle it nicely:
Inside, all was not quiet either, with three students ejected from the hall for heckling. Rice's response was to claim she was glad to see democracry was alive and well at Austrralian universities, as that it "is now alive at theā€¦ university of Baghdad as well".

Whether you agree with the politics or not, an opportunity to listen to a speaker of such rank is a rare privilege. Unfortunately, these 'protesters' believe "the uni was a student space, not one for Rice".

Wrong. Universities are a place for learning. As Dr Rice, who according to her bio
completed a six year tenure as Stanford University 's Provost, during which she was the institution's chief budget and academic officer. As Provost she was responsible for a $1.5 billion annual budget and the academic program involving 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students. As professor of political science, Dr. Rice has been on the Stanford faculty since 1981 and has won two of the highest teaching honors -- the 1984 Walter J. Gores Award for Excellence in Teaching and the 1993 School of Humanities and Sciences Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Not exactly a lightweight. The comments on the Indymedia post are largely unsympathetic:
For some decades now free speech has been in as short supply in Australian universities as it is in American ones. I wonder, though, if it isnt about time we faced up to it. When respected academics are refused the right to speak as we have seen in the past (the Hans Eysenck era) to trying to stop someone as basic as Brendan Nelson, we now have this example. To have the Secretary of State of the USA in any era is a great opportunity, especially as she is more academically qualified than most (if not all) of the people who gathered to try and forcibly stop her speaking at the Con.
I'm sick of idiot activists trying to suppress free speech on campus. It's time to start expelling students who deliberately try to disrupt events and stop people from having their views heard.
Go get a job you fools.

When you picket the outside of an assembly involving a person of such high regard, you shouldn't be surprised what the Police do.

I saw the news. You were WARNED. You talked over the top of the Police officer who warned you, on numerous occasions, to get out of the way. Regardless of whether your in crutches, or dancing like a fairy, you can't say you weren't told what would happen if you didn't make way. "Oh, I'm a helpless target, the Police won't make me move" WRONG.

Of course one of your members claimed to be sexual harrassed. We're not stupid. You are vexacious complainants. You'd say anything to make the Police look bad.

Yes, and the people inside were "silenced". Because they were acting like idiots. We need more than oversimplified generalisations to have a worthwhile opinion. Yelling "WAR CRIMINAL" and garbage like that isn't even going to be acknowledged by one of the most powerful people in the world. She has better things to do than even VALIDATE the opinion of a first or second year who can't even structure an argument.
It seems there is still some hope for learning at Australian campuses.

Indymedia sits at the heart of the hypocrisy, on the one hand printing the most vile and foul antisemitic, libellous and fraudulent material under the pretense of 'free speech', yet simultanously advocating the silencing of those with whose politics they disagree.

More on Freedom of Speech double standards here, here and one Dr Rice may be familiar with, here.

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